OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro review: The makings of a flagship smartphone killer
Design, Display & Audio, User Interface
Note: This review was first published on 18 June 2020.
The most affordable flagship phone with 5G?
OnePlus needs no introduction. What first started as a Chinese smartphone maker founded by an ex-Oppo employee has since evolved into a fully-fledged phone brand with a retail presence in 50 countries, including Singapore. The brand was (and still somewhat is) famous for its self-proclamation of making phones that are flagship killers, packing top-end hardware and features at affordable prices. Having said that, their 2019 flagships were far from being affordable and called out if OnePlus could still maintain their edge in this crowded smartphone space.
The OnePlus 8 series that was announced in mid-April 2020 as the successor to the OnePlus 7 series (including the OnePlus 7T). The launch of the 5G-ready OnePlus 8 series is set to compete with 5G-capable, flagship smartphones from other brands launched this year. And when we mean 5G-ready, this phone does come with a 5G modem!
OnePlus's latest flagship devices pack several headlining features beyond 5G. The phones have a different, yet heightened refresh rate for their displays, HDR playback support in both models, Wi-Fi 6 support, and a flagship Snapdragon 865 processor. Two main models exist, the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro:-
|OnePlus 8||OnePlus 8 Pro|
|Display||6.55-inch (2,400 x 1,080 pixels), 90Hz refresh rate||6.78-inch (3,168 x 1,440 pixels), 120Hz refresh rate|
|Camera||Tri-camera system||Quad-camera system|
|Charging||Wired Fast Charging||Wired and Wireless Fast Charging|
|Water/Dust Resistance||--||IP68 protection|
Key differences between them models lie in their camera capabilities, with the OnePlus 8 touting a triple rear camera setup while the Pro gets a quad-camera system on the rear. Other subtle points are the OnePlus 8 Pro's 30W wireless charging support, while the OnePlus 8 gets wired 30W charging only.
Nonetheless, the phones look like spec monsters on paper, with starting prices lower than many competing devices. The OnePlus 8 starts at S$998 with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage (including 5G support), while the OnePlus 8 Pro starts at S$1,298 with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage (also including 5G support). Both the Pro and non-Pro models also have a another tier with more memory and storage options - 12GB RAM with 256GB storage - so in total, there are actually four different configurations of OnePlus 8 phones across two model names.
With these prices and specs, will they finally claim the flagship killer title, or will they just be another flagship phone in the mix? Let's find out.
Note: in this article, "OnePlus 8 series" refers to the collective OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro together. For specific differences or attributes, the applicable device (OnePlus 8, or OnePlus 8 Pro) will be mentioned.
|OnePlus 8||OnePlus 8 Pro|
Design & Handling
The OnePlus 8 series may be relatively 'affordable' flagship smartphones with current-gen hardware, but they feel undeniably premium like their more expensive competitors. The phones' design mostly follows the modern look for top-shelf flagship phones - a curved glass front that goes down to the sides with a unibody-like appearance.
Aesthetically, the OnePlus 8 series feature minor differences. They sport the same bodywork, have identical button placements (volume rocker on the left, power/lock button and silence toggle on the right). The corresponding port arrangement below is identical too (from left to right: SIM card slot, USB Type-C port, built-in speakers), and they have a centre-aligned rear camera system at the back.
What sets them apart are their proportions. The OnePlus 8 is smaller, slimmer, and lighter (180g) than the Pro variant (199g) because of their different display sizes. OnePlus 8 with its 6.55-inch, 2,400 x 1,080 pixels resolution screen still fits well in one hand, as it's nearly as wide as the iPhone X, but a centimetre taller (roughly). The OnePlus 8 Pro is still ergonomic despite its larger body, given that it's closer in size to the Oppo Find X2 Pro and in between the Samsung Galaxy S20+ and Galaxy S20 Ultra. The OnePlus 8 Pro model is preferable if you like larger displays with more to see and interact with (6.78-inch, 3,168 x 1,440 pixels resolution), while the OnePlus 8 is better if you value the ease of use with a single hand.
Both models are comfortable to use during regular phone interactions since the button controls are in all the typical places. For instance, the grooved embellishment on the silence toggle makes it easy to silence the device without needing to look at the phone.
Another way to tell apart the OnePlus 8 and the Pro version is the flash that accompanies the rear camera systems. On the OnePlus 8 sits a dual-LED with a circular cut-out at the bottom of the lens array. The OnePlus 8 Pro's dual-LED flash is oblong-shaped nested to the left of three cameras. The fourth camera - the colour filter lens - sits just above the flash. Check out the backs of the OnePlus 8 models below:-
The OnePlus 8's colour variants include a cool-looking Glacial Green (the one we have on hand), the iridescent Interstellar Glow, and conventional Onyx Black. The OnePlus 8 Pro comes in the same Glacial Green, Onyx Black (our review unit), and a pleasant Ultramarine Blue. Going by the device colours we've received, the OnePlus phones should be appealing no matter your colour choice. If the design and build matters, you can always take a closer look with our initial first-looks article here.
Display & Audio
On the OnePlus 8, you'll find a 6.55-inch AMOLED display at 2,400 x 1,080 pixels resolution (working out to ~402ppi) with sRGB and DCI-P3 colour gamut support. Some display features included are HDR10 and HDR10+ support, Reading Mode, Night Mode, and Vibrant Colour Effect for videos. You can manually select your preferred colour space and set your ideal colour temperature via a slider. These options are available under the Display category within the phone's Settings app.
The OnePlus 8 Pro has a 6.78-inch AMOLED display at 3,168 x 1,440 pixels resolution (about 513 PPI). Besides the display options found on the non-Pro version, the 8 Pro also has Comfort Tone, which decreases the amount of blue light emitted based on the lighting of your surroundings. OnePlus 8 Pro also has has some interesting video playback tweaks available via the Video Enhancement Engine menu. There's an option that helps increase saturation and contrast, while another setting is Motion Graphics Smoothing, which increases video framerates by 'inserting' extra frames in between to reduce graphical lag and jitter. Motion Graphics Smoothing depends on app compatibility, which you'll only know after installing the said video playback app. In our case, it works with VLC, YouTube, and Netflix.
While their pixel densities are nearly 100 PPI (pixels-per-inch) apart, an untrained, naked eye won't be able to tell apart the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro's screen quality. By comparison, 300ppi is the average industry standard for high-quality digital images, so a display capable of squeezing more than 300 pixels per inch may not result in a significant-enough difference if you're holding your phone at typical texting and reading distance.
The most significant difference in both phones' displays lies in its refresh rate capability. OnePlus 8's screen can refresh at 90Hz, while the OnePlus 8 Pro refreshes at 120Hz. Besides video support, the heightened refresh rates are also supported on some games like Fortnite. There's not much visible difference if the content is recorded or rendered for 60fps playback, but games with up to 120fps support feel smoother on the OnePlus 8 Pro.
We found that the OnePlus 8 Pro's video playback with enabled enhancements is just fine, save for a few instances where the phone over-compensates on footage with a high frame rate (60fps and above). It causes mild jitter on a few rare occasions, but none of which will interfere with your video watching experience.
Audio-wise, the OnePlus 8 offers a generic audio signature with an over-emphasised bass range by default. This gives it a bloated mid-range frequency. Such a sound profile makes vocals and spoken lines more comfortable to follow if you're watching drama serials and vlogs, which is excellent. What it's not so great is if you're an audiophile chasing after sound purity. The OnePlus 8 Pro doesn't fare that much better in that regard - high-pitched frequencies are not as tinny as the OnePlus 8, but the bloated bass is still quite prominent.
Both devices come with Dolby Atmos virtual audio enhancements, which can be adjusted via the Settings app under Sound & Vibration. The default (dynamic) is preferable for most content.
There's no 3.5mm audio jack port on the OnePlus 8 series, similar to the OnePlus 7 Pro. If you want to, you can pick one an OnePlus-branded USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter at S$19.90 by OnePlus, but we felt that they could have included one with the device, just to stand out further from some other brands.
OnePlus 8 series phones come with Android 10, sitting beneath OnePlus's proprietary OxygenOS 10.0.7 reskin. Operationally, it gives a pure Android experience with an OnePlus cosmetic sheen across its core apps. OxygenOS is user-friendly, with very straight-to-the-point menus and well-spaced buttons, circular app icons, and a neutral colour palette. Outlines and markings are only used sparingly, with many menus opting for a borderless, no-outline look, e.g. notifications and app manager selection menu.
Core Android 10 features - such as forcing Dark Mode across all apps, using Gestures or the traditional three-button Android menu (Back, Home, app summary), and having an app drawer - are still fully intact despite the re-skin, so the OnePlus 8 series offer a complete Android experience without taking away or replacing them needlessly.
Part of the user experience is the notch-hole camera on the OnePlus 8 series - yes, OnePlus decided to abandon the pop-up front camera mechanism on last year's model in favour of a camera hole on the top left corner of the screen. Fortunately, it doesn't detract from the smooth browsing experience, and neither does it affect video watching since common video ratios don't overlap with the notched area of the panel.
The OnePlus 8 series' dual-SIM card slot accepts two nano-SIM cards, but with no option of expanding storage via a microSD card. While the default 128GB of storage should be decent for most users, if you're trigger happy and seldom manage your camera roll, you might want to top-up S$100 more of the 256GB editions of the respective phone models (which also nets you an insane amount of memory, 12GB).